Cancer Home > What Is Fludarabine Used For?
If you have a type of cancer called B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia, you may receive a medication called fludarabine. This prescription drug works by interfering with the multiplication process of cancer cells. It is approved only for use in adults and is used when other treatment has been unsuccessful. Fludarabine may also be used off-label to treat other conditions, such as acute myeloid leukemia and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Fludarabine phosphate (Fludara®) is a prescription medication approved for the treatment of B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) in adults who have not responded adequately to other treatment, or whose condition has progressed during other treatment. It belongs to a group of medicines known as purine analogs.
Leukemia is a cancer that occurs when the bone marrow (the middle part of certain bones that produces blood cells) makes abnormal blood cells that grow out of control. These abnormal blood cells are called leukemia cells. There are several different types of leukemia, which are generally grouped by how quickly the disease develops and becomes worse (chronic versus acute) and which blood cells are affected (lymphoid versus myeloid).
(Click on Types of Leukemia for information on other types of leukemia.)
B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia (also called chronic lymphocytic leukemia or chronic lymphatic leukemia) is a slow-developing leukemia that affects a certain type of white blood cell known as B-lymphocytes. This particular type of leukemia is most likely to affect adults; it rarely occurs in children.
In CLL, the abnormal lymphocytes do not function properly and are not effective at fighting off infections. Over time, as the leukemia cells increase in numbers, they can crowd out normal, healthy blood cells. This can lead to various problems associated with leukemia, such as bleeding, anemia, and infections.
In addition, like all blood cells, leukemia cells travel through the body. Depending on the number of abnormal cells and where these cells collect, people with chronic lymphocytic leukemia may have a number of symptoms. Some of the common CLL symptoms include:
- Painless swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck, underarm, abdomen (stomach), or groin
- Pain or fullness below the ribs
- Infection and fever
- Unexplained weight loss.
There are several different treatment options for someone with CLL (see Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia Treatment). Fludarabine is a type of chemotherapy. It is used after other treatments have been tried, but were unsuccessful in adequately treating the leukemia.
More specifically, fludarabine is approved for use in people who were previously treated with a medication regimen that included an alkylating agent. Examples of alkylating agents approved to treat chronic lymphocytic leukemia include: